Sure Would Like to See These Baseball Teams Play

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IJune 10, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 09: Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies is out at second as Alex Cora #3 of the New York Mets throws to first base  during their game at Citi Field on June 9, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Mike and Mike in the Morning had a discussion on Tuesday about which sports franchise was the greatest dynasty in professional sports.

They obviously included the Yankees with their 26 World Championships, but the argument for them boiled down to the Yankees or the Los Angeles Lakers.

Even though the Lakers have won far fewer world championships than the Yankees and far fewer than the Celtics in their own field in the NBA, Mike Greenberg was arguing that the Lakers had to be the greatest franchise because of the 50 greatest basketball players of all-time, at least nine of them had played for the Lakers.

The conversation then turned to whether nine or more of the greatest 50 baseball players were Yankees.

That set me to thinking about who the top 50 baseball players in history are.

I did some research and found that The Sporting News has their ranking of the top 100 all-time baseball players.

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Baseball Almanac lists the top 100 as chosen by The Society for American Baseball Research.

But each of these organizations ranked the players without regard to position or utility on a team.

I decided to put together two 25-man squads of what I would consider as the greatest players of all-time.

I used this to include 50 players, as Mike and Mike were discussing, and to consider how you would fill out two teams that would theoretically play one another in an historical game. 

I did this without regard to leagues or eras.  And I did it thinking of the way teams are composed today as opposed to the manner in which old-time teams were put together.  So I used more pitchers and added designated hitters for both teams.

I put 11 pitchers on each team but did not distinguish between starters and relievers. I figure the managers could figure this out.

Here are my two all-time greatest teams.

But I will give some caveats with this. First of all, this is almost an exercise in futility.

As an example, Hank Greenberg is ranked as high as the 35th greatest player in baseball history, but he doesn’t make the list because there is no place to play him.

When you have Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx as your first baseman and utility infielders such as Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Eddie Collins, and Brooks Robinson, Hank just can’t make the teams.

Another example, I first thought of Hank Aaron as the starting left fielder. But you can’t keep Stan Musial off the starting lineup, and Stan the Man had a lifetime average 40 points higher than Hammering Hank.  Stan’s OPS+ was even higher than Hank’s.

The biggest argument is probably going to come because of my choice for the shortstop for the Red Team. The shortstop for the Blue Team was relatively easy. There are not 10 better players in the history of baseball than Honus Wagner.

But when it came to picking the second best shortstop in the history of baseball, it got much harder.

At first I had Ernie Banks as the starting shortstop on the second team.  Banks, of course, is in the Hall of Fame.  He ranks in the top 40 on both lists mentioned above.  Banks had a career average of only .274, although he did hit 512 home runs and gathered 2,583 total hits.

But Ernie did not even play his entire career at short.

Then I looked at Cal Ripken, Jr., also in the Hall and the model for all shortstops of the new millenium. Ripken hit .276 for his career with 431 home runs and had an OPS of .788 and an OPS+ of 112.  He was MVP twice and won one Gold Glove.

I considered Barry Larkin, who hit .295 for his career and had 198 home runs. He won two Gold Gloves and one MVP and had a lifetime OPS of .815.

I went back and looked at Arky Vaughn and Marty Marion and Luke Appling.

Appling got strong consideration because he had a lifetime average of .310.  But his OPS was only .798 and his OPS+ was 112.

Then I considered another shortstop and knew he was trouble on this list. But I did the statistical analysis. He has had more Gold Gloves than Larkin or Ripken. His lifetime average is 20 points higher than Larkin and almost 40 points higher than Ripken.

This shortstop has over 2,600 hits, a career OPS of .845, and a career OPS+ of 120, again, higher than Ripken or Larkin. He has barely half Ripken’s home runs but more home runs than Larkin.

And this shortstop is still playing. He also has four championship rings. Knowing it would be controversial, I put Derek Jeter as the other starting shortstop on the two greatest teams ever assembled.

So here they are.  Dissect the lists, tear them apart, tell me why I am crazy. But put some thought into it please, because I sure have.

Blue Team:

Manager:  John McGraw

Pitchers: 
Cy Young                      511 Wins—316 losses—Lifetime ERA 2.36
Christy Mathewson         373 Wins—188 losses—Lifetime ERA 2.13
Nolan Ryan                    324 Wins—292 losses—Lifetime ERA 3.19 – 5,714 Strikeouts
Whitey Ford                  236 Wins—106 losses—Lifetime ERA 2.75
Lefty Grove                   300 Wins—141 losses—Lifetime ERA 3.06
Goose Gossage               124 Wins—107 losses—Lifetime ERA 3.01 – 310 Saves
Steve Carlton                 329 Wins—244 losses—Lifetime ERA 3.22 – 4,136 Strikeouts
Roger Clemens                354 Wins—184 losses—Lifetime ERA 3.12 – 4672 Strikeouts
Jim Palmer                      268 Wins—152 losses—Lifetime ERA 2.86
Carl Hubbell                    253 Wins—154 losses—Lifetime ERA 2.98
Bob Gibson                      251 Wins—174 losses—Lifetime ERA 2.91 – 3117 Strikeouts

Catchers: 
Johnny Bench                  Lifetime BA—.267—389 HR—OPS .817—OPS+ 126
Josh Gibson                     Impossible to determine from Negro Leagues

First Base: 
Lou Gehrig                        Lifetime BA—.340—493 HR—OPS 1.080—OPS+ 179

Second Base:
Napoleon Lajoie                 Lifetime BA—.338—3242 Hits—OPS .847—OPS+ 150

Shortstop:
Honus Wagner                   Lifetime BA—.327—3415 Hits—OPS .857—OPS+ 150

Third Base: 
Mike Schmidt                    Lifetime BA - .267 – 548 HR – OPS .908 – OPS+ 147

Utility Infielders: 
Joe Morgan                       Lifetime BA - .271 – 268 HR – OPS .819 – OPS+ 132
Pete Rose                         Lifetime BA - .303 – 4256 Hits – OPS .784 – OPS+ 132

Left Field: 
Stan Musial                       Lifetime BA - .331 – 475 HR – OPS .976 – OPS+ 159

Centerfield: 
Joe Dimaggio                     Lifetime BA - .325 – 361 HR – OPS .977 – OPS+ 155

Right Field: 
Tris Speaker                      Lifetime BA - .345 – 3514 Hits – OPS .928 – OPS+ 158

Extra Outfielders: 
Mickey Mantle                   Lifetime BA - .298 – 536 HR – OPS .977 – OPS+ 172 
Hank Aaron                       Lifetime BA - .305 – 755 HR – OPS .925 – OPS+ 155

Designated Hitter: 
Babe Ruth                         Lifetime BA - .342 – 7149 HR – OPS 1.164 – OPS+ 207


Red Team: 

Manager:  Joe McCarthy

Pitchers: 
Satchel Paige                      Impossible to determine exact stats from Negro Leagues
Grover Cleveland Alexander  373 Wins – 208 losses – Lifetime ERA  2.56
Sandy Koufax                   165 Wins – 87 losses –   Lifetime ERA 2.76
Walter Johnson                 417 Wins – 279 losses – Lifteime ERA 2.17 –3509 Strikeouts
Bob Feller                        266 Wins – 162 losses – Lifetime ERA 3.25 – 2581 Strikeouts
Warren Spahn                  363 Wins – 245 losses – Lifetime ERA 3.05 – 2583 Strikeouts
Tom Seaver                     311 Wins – 205 losses – Lifetime ERA 2.86 – 3640 Strikeouts
Greg Maddux                    355 Wins – 277 losses – Lifetime ERA 3.16 – 3371 Strikeouts
Randy Johnson                 300 Wins – 165 losses – Lifetime ERA 3.28 – 4850 Strikeouts
Mariano Rivera                  68 Wins -    51 losses -   Lifetime ERA 2.31 – 496 Saves
Dennis Eckersley                197 Wins – 171 losses – Lifetime ERA 3.50 – 390 Saves

Catchers: 
Yogi Berra                     Lifetime BA - .285 – 358 HR – OPS .830 – OPS+ 125
Ivan Rodriguez               Lifetime BA - .301 – 300 HR – OPS .812 – OPS+ 109

First Basemen: 
Jimmie Foxx                   Lifetime BA - .325 – 534 HR – OPS .1.038 – OPS+ 163

Second Base: 
Rogers Hornsby             Lifetime BA - .358 – 301 HR – OPS 1.010 – OPS+ 175

Shortstop: 
Derek Jeter                  Lifetime BA - .315 – 215 HR - 2605 Hits– OPS .845 – OPS+ 120

Third Base: 
Alex Rodriguez              Lifetime BA - .305 – 561 HR – OPS .966 – OPS+ 147

Utility Infielders: 
Eddie Collins                  Lifetime BA - .333 – 3315 Hits – OPS .853 – OPS+ 141
Brooks Robinson             Lifetime BA - .267 – 268 HR – Gold Gloves 16 Straight Years

Left Field: 
Ty Cobb                       Lifetime BA - .366 – 4189 Hits – OPS .945 – OPS+ 167

Centerfield: 
Willie Mays                   Lifetime BA - .302 – 660 HR – OPS .941 – OPS+ 156

Right Field: 
Roberto Clemente           Lifetime BA - .317 – 3000 Hits – OPS .834 – OPS+ 130

Extra Outfielders: 
Barry Bonds                  Lifetime BA - .298 – 762 HR – OPS .1.051 – OPS+182
Frank Robinson              Lifetime BA - .267 – 389 HR – OPS .817 – OPS+ 126

Designated Hitter: 
Ted Williams                  Lifetime BA - .344 – 521 HR – OPS 1.116 – OPS+ 191